Les Dimanches a Bokito…

Me, Spencer, and Lookman at the Baby Bar - aka Texaco
C’est le jour pour le bar! While these are not necessarily the lyrics to the famous Amadou et Mariam song about Bamako, they are in fact quite true for Bokito. I’ve officially spent my first Sunday in Bokito, and while I thought the town might a bit more lively on the weekends, this was unfortunately not the case.

The day began quite early - at 1:30am to be exact - when my cat, whom I named Pascale, was once again attacked by the mystery animal in the kitchen, which I presume to be a snake. While my host mom insists that the knocking over of pots and pans in the kitchen and the 30 minutes of deafening screaming done by my cat is due to his hunger, I am in the camp which believes it is indeed an animal attacking him - a more logical answer, I would argue.

After listening to the near death of Pascale for 30 minutes, I finally fell back asleep. I took a morning run and prepared for Catholic Church with my host mom and my host grandma, who speaks barely any French might I add. I’ve realized in the past 10 or so years that I do not like Catholic church for both fundamental and personal reasons. I figured I’d give Cameroonian Catholic Church a try just for the hell of it. Unfortunately, the lesson I learned was that Cameroonian Catholic Church was in fact identical to American Catholic Church except for the fact that it was in French and lasted nearly twice as long as any American service I have ever attended. Catholics will be Catholics (no offense to anyone out there!).

After suffering about a dozen heat strokes in the crowded and sweltering church for 2.5 hours, church was finished and I was the first to run out of that sauna and into the not-much-better sunlight to greet my friends. Given my near-blackout experiences during the church service, I decided that going back to bed was the better choice for me. When I woke back up, it was unfortunately laundry time. It has been 2 years since I’ve had to do laundry in a bucket, so I was a bit rusty. With my mom unwilling to help me and nobody else around to guide me, I was left to my own devices. As my ‘dry’ clothes are now folded in my closet three days later - I am still convinced that all the soap has not been washed out.

After doing laundry, I hung up all my washed clothes in the front yard. What his means is that all of Bokito had front row seats to view my underwear, bras, and other clothes. Really, no privacy here! Within the hour, however, a downpour came and I had to move my clothes to the porch. After the 1 hour rain, Lookman, Rachel, Spencer and I decided to take a walk about town.

We were supposed to be locating each other’s houses for our Emergency Action Plan, but what the entire trip turned out to be was a long walk to the bar. We meandered to the non-existent and dead downtown Bokito and bought some sugared peanuts, Cameroonian Mambo Chocolate (probably the most religious moment of my Sunday was my first bite into the chocolate bar), unripe guava which Spencer and I unknowingly ate, and mystery street meat.

Let me clarify two things for you. Number one being guava. I know/knew guava is a fruit. What I did not know is how to tell when/if it is ripe. After buying 3 guavas and waiting several days, this distinction still perplexes me. What Spencer, however, did not know, is that guava is a fruit. Spencer thought (and perhaps still thinks) that guava is bat poop. After arguing for several minutes over the past few days, I still believe that Spencer is convinced that guava is indeed bat s**t. Coming from the guy that hadn’t showered in nearly 2 weeks, I have little confidence in him (just kidding, I love you Spencer!).

The number two thing I would like to clarify for you is that street meat is THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING EVER! I have absolutely no idea what was on the skewer I bought from the street-side vender besides the obvious onion, nor do I know what juices it was sitting in for perhaps hours before I sunk my vegetarian teeth into it, but boy oh boy was this the best food ever! Given that my host mom doesn’t feed me (she is supposed to, but doesn’t. It’s a long story that is working on being sorted out!), I turned desperate and caved to buy some of the mystery street meet with Spencer. It was only us two who risked our lives by trying this mystery street meat on a stick for the rest of the group. Rachel and Lookman both agreed they would see if either Spencer or I got sick and/or died the next day to see if they would indeed risk the meat themselves (and alas, look, we both survived!). I like to think that Spencer and I are quite chivalrous for risking our lives for both Rachel and Lookman. This meat, whatever type of meat it was, was hands down the best thing I’ve eaten since getting in country (besides anything chocolate or pastry related!).
Texaco and the Storm
After savoring the heaven that is street meat, Spencer, Rachel, Lookman and I retraced our steps down the desolate and dull main road in Bokito. Spencer pointed out his house to us, and I give him major props since he is just about the only one living in a mud house with a latrine a good 20 feet away (yeah, you imagine having to take a poop in the middle of a storm with no electricity! Just think about it!). Given that we couldn’t find anything better to do, we meandered over to Texaco which is a bar we had never been to yet in Bokito (but isn’t that also the name of a US gas station?).

Let me describe this “bar” to you. Imagine the entrance to a Great America amusement ride with the theme of the “Wild West”. Yes, the entrance to said rollercoaster would be a rundown shack with falling off wooden boards. Well, this is the appearance of the Texaco bar. In keeping with the Wild West Saloon theme, the bar itself is a tall cubical inside the shack with a small opening to place your order. When Spencer, Lookman, Rachel and I entered the bar, there were perhaps six children ranging between the ages of 2 and 8, one of whom had Ricketts. Children were everywhere - hanging off the chairs, sitting in front of the speakers which blared Celine Dion, and sitting on huge bundles of plantains. The oldest of the bunch approached us and Spencer asked him for a beer, not really expecting that the 8-year-old could serve us. But alas, Spencer was wrong! The 8-year-old boy got up and walked around into the wooden cubical bar and climbed up on his step-stool and stood behind the ordering window. Spencer ordered his beer again and the child reached behind the counter, acquired a beer and popped the cap like a pro. Convinced that this bar was (and is?) run by children, I stepped up and order my 33 beer. Given that my beer was cold (which is quite an uncommon occurrence here), I give these kids major props for knowing what Les Blanches like!

Baby Bar - aka Texaco
As we sat down for our drinks we noticed storms rolling in. Too lazy to abandon our newly purchased 1 liter beers to run home before storm hit, we decided to wait it out. For the next three hours the storm raged around us on the patio, but we continued to drink and converse with merriment. Some of our French language trainers came during the storm and ordered viper, yes, as in the snake, which is apparently a specialty here, as is rat and antelope.

After the storm blew over and as our 7:00pm curfew approached, I was escorted home by Spencer and Lookman only to find that the power was out. As I perhaps have previously mentioned, this is my least favorite thing because everywhere I shine my headlamp when the power is out then I see at least a dozen cockroaches scurrying away. Some things are better left undiscovered.

The night was spent attempting to journal as translucent white and green bugs who are attracted by light bombard my face and headlamp. After surrendering to the bugs, I laid back in bed and shone my light against my wall and watched the shadows of the bugs on my headlamp dance across my wall. I suppose it is my own personal puppet show. Les Dimaches a Bokito…

1 comment:

  1. Sorry Karen, I guess Spencer's "blonde" is showing! You would think that college education we paid for would include knowing the difference between guava and guano! He even had a really good GPA! Oh,well, the most exotic fruit he has eaten is probably a kiwi! Hope you get some decent food soon. The Peace Corps should take care of that. Spencer's host brother will kill a chicken for you!


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